In February of this year, a teenager from San Diego was arrested for a terrible road accident: his pickup truck had rammed into a car full of people. Three people died and it was found that the 19-year-old had been under the influence. Now, while this would have been a regular DUI case with personal injury lawsuits on the side, the death of three people made it both a civilian and a criminal case. In addition to DUI, the defendant was facing murder charges too.
Understanding the Difference between the Two
When it’s a criminal case, the burden of proof is higher. The fault needs to be established without any reasonable doubt, whereas civil cases are different. The defendant in civil cases has a slightly less demanding criterion: preponderance of the evidence. Simply said, it’s far easier to prove that a person was at fault in a civil case than it is to prove that a person was guilty in a criminal case. This, of course, complicates matters.
Both cases are active at the same time with completely different sets of goals. As someone who’s been caught up with a personal injury in a car accident where the defendant is going through two different legal procedures, you might face delay and difficulties.
At times, past criminal records can also lead to some degree of prejudice in your claim. Although unrelated to the issue at hand, they can end up complicating matters as a criminal record is always viewed negatively.
It’s in your favor if the defendant has a criminal record—but it could be against you if you as the plaintiff have a criminal record. The impact of a past criminal record is diluted if:
(a) much time has passed since the conviction, and
(b) the crime was a misdemeanor
A DUI from a decade ago will have less impact, but a felony conviction can have a huge impact on how your case is tackled. Furthermore, the defendant’s insurance firm (especially if this is a car accident) will try their best to bring your record up and cite it as credible evidence.
How Matters Can Complicate
If the defendant is charged with both, personal injury and a criminal charge, things tend to become a little convoluted. As the plaintiff, even if the person is convicted in the criminal case, you don’t necessarily win the personal injury case.
The conviction might help, yes, but that’s about it. A personal injury lawyer can ensure that the conviction is used in order to build a stronger case for you. It can be proved, for instance, that there’s a presumption of negligence, which has led to your personal injury. This helps you as the plaintiff to make a stronger claim, resulting in you getting the compensation you are owed.
The best way to tackle such a confusing case is to work with a law firm that tackles both: personal injury claims and criminal charges. The Law Offices of Lisa Douglas in N. Little Rock, Arkansas, is one such office, and they can be reached here.